Sapere Aude
('Dare to be Wise')[1]
Map of Oxfordshire.
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionSouth East England
Time zoneUTC±00:00 (Greenwich Mean Time)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+01:00 (British Summer Time)
Members of Parliament
PoliceThames Valley police
Ceremonial county
Lord LieutenantMarjorie Glasgow BEM
High SheriffMrs Amanda Ponsonby MBE[2] (2020–21)
Area2,605 km2 (1,006 sq mi)
 • Ranked22nd of 48
Population (mid-2019 est.)687,524
 • Ranked35th of 48
Density264/km2 (680/sq mi)
Ethnicity90.9% White, 4.8% Asian/Asian British[3]
Non-metropolitan county
County councilOxfordshire County Council[4]
ExecutiveLiberal Democrat Green Alliance
Admin HQOxford
Area2,605 km2 (1,006 sq mi)
 • Ranked15th of 26
 • Ranked17th of 26
Density266/km2 (690/sq mi)
ISO 3166-2GB-OXF
ONS code38

Districts of Oxfordshire
  1. City of Oxford
  2. Cherwell
  3. South Oxfordshire
  4. Vale of White Horse
  5. West Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire[a] is a landlocked county in the far west of the government statistical region of South East England. The ceremonial county borders Warwickshire to the north-west, Northamptonshire to the north-east, Buckinghamshire to the east, Berkshire to the south, Wiltshire to the south-west and Gloucestershire to the west.

The county has major education and tourist industries, and is noted for concentrations of performance motorsport, car manufacturing and technology companies. The University of Oxford is widely considered one of the leading universities in the world, and is linked to a concentration of local technology and science activities at locations such as the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, while Oxford University Press is the largest among a concentration of print and publishing firms.

As well as the city of Oxford, other centres of population are Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington and Chipping Norton to the north of Oxford; Carterton and Witney to the west; Thame and Chinnor to the east; and Abingdon-on-Thames, Wantage, Didcot, Wallingford and Henley-on-Thames to the south. All its zones south of the Thames: the Vale of White Horse and parts of South Oxfordshire were within the historic county of Berkshire, including the highest point, the 261-metre (856 ft) White Horse Hill.[5]

Oxfordshire's county flower is the snake's-head fritillary.[6]


Oxfordshire was recorded as a county in the early years of the 10th century and lies between the River Thames to the south, the Cotswolds to the west, the Chilterns to the east and the Midlands to the north, with spurs running south to Henley-on-Thames and north to Banbury.

Although it had some significance as an area of valuable agricultural land in the centre of the country, it was largely ignored by the Romans, and did not grow in importance until the formation of a settlement at Oxford in the 8th century. Alfred the Great was born across the Thames in Wantage, Vale of White Horse. The University of Oxford was founded in 1096, though its collegiate structure did not develop until later on. The university in the county town of Oxford (whose name came from Anglo-Saxon Oxenaford = "ford for oxen") grew in importance during the Middle Ages and early modern period. The area was part of the Cotswolds wool trade from the 13th century, generating much wealth, particularly in the western portions of the county in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Morris Motors was founded in Oxford in 1912, bringing heavy industry to an otherwise agricultural county. The importance of agriculture as an employer declined rapidly in the 20th century; currently under one percent of the county's population are involved due to high mechanisation. Nonetheless, Oxfordshire remains a very agricultural county by land use, with a lower population than neighbouring Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, which are both smaller.

During most of its history the county was divided into fourteen hundreds, namely Bampton, Banbury, Binfield, Bloxham, Bullingdon, Chadlington, Dorchester, Ewelme, Langtree, Lewknor, Pyrton, Ploughley, Thame and Wootton.

The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, the main army unit in the area, was based at Cowley Barracks on Bullingdon Green, Cowley.

The Vale of White Horse district and parts of the South Oxfordshire administrative district south of the River Thames were historically part of Berkshire, but in 1974 Abingdon, Didcot, Faringdon, Wallingford and Wantage were added to the administrative county of Oxfordshire under the Local Government Act 1972. Conversely, the Caversham area of Reading, now administratively in Berkshire, was historically part of Oxfordshire, as was the parish of Stokenchurch, now administratively in Buckinghamshire. The areas of Oxford city south of the Thames such as Grandpont were transferred much earlier, in 1889.


Oxfordshire includes parts of three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In the north-west lie the Cotswolds, to the south and south-east are the open chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs and the wooded hills of the Chilterns. The north of the county contains the ironstone of the Cherwell uplands. Long-distance walks within the county include the Ridgeway National Trail, Macmillan Way, Oxfordshire Way and the D’Arcy Dalton Way.

Extreme points

Rivers and canals

From the mid-point western edge to the southeast corner of Oxfordshire, via the city in the middle, runs the Thames with its flat floodplains; this river forms the historic limit with Berkshire, remaining so on some lowest reaches. The Thames Path National Trail follows the river from upper estuary to a source.

Many smaller rivers in the county feed into the Thames, such as the Thame, Windrush, Evenlode and Cherwell. Some of these have trails running along their valleys. The Oxford Canal links to the Midlands and follows the Cherwell from Banbury via Kidlington into the city of Oxford, where these join the navigable Thames. About 15% of the historically named Wilts & Berks Canal, in sporadic sections, has been restored to navigability, including the county-relevant 140 metres near Abingdon-on-Thames where it could, if restored, meet the Thames.

Green belt

Oxfordshire contains a green belt area that fully envelops the city of Oxford, and extends for some miles to protect surrounding towns and villages from inappropriate development and urban growth. Its border in the east extends to the Buckinghamshire county boundary, while part of its southern border is shared with the North Wessex Downs AONB. It was first drawn up in the 1950s, and all the county's districts contain some portion of the belt.



This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Oxfordshire at current basic prices published by the Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British pounds sterling.[7]

YearRegional gross value added[8]Agriculture[9]Industry[10]Services[11]


The Oxfordshire County Council, since 2013 under no overall control, is responsible for the most strategic local government functions, including schools, county roads, and social services. The county is divided into five local government districts: Oxford, Cherwell, Vale of White Horse (after the Uffington White Horse), West Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire, which deal with such matters as town and country planning, waste collection, and housing.

In the 2016 European Union referendum, Oxfordshire was the only English county as a whole to vote to remain in the European Union by a significant margin, at 57.06% (70.27% in the City of Oxford), despite Cherwell (barely) voting to leave at 50.31%.


(c) Bola, CC BY-SA 2.0
Brasenose Lane in Oxford city centre, a street onto which three colleges back.
The University of Oxford's Chemistry Research Laboratory.

Oxfordshire has a completely comprehensive education system with 23 independent schools and 35 state secondary schools. Only eight schools do not have a sixth form; these are mostly in South Oxfordshire and Cherwell districts. Oxfordshire also has a large number of leading independent schools, including public schools such as Radley College.

The county has two universities: the ancient University of Oxford[12] and the modern Oxford Brookes University, which are both located in Oxford. In addition, Wroxton College, located in Banbury, is affiliated with Fairleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey.[13]


The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay, a ‘textbook’ example of the English medieval manor house.

The "dreaming spires" of the University of Oxford are among the reasons why Oxford is the sixth most visited city in the United Kingdom for international visitors.[14] Among many notable University buildings are the Sheldonian Theatre, built 1664–68 to the design of Sir Christopher Wren, and the Radcliffe Camera, built 1737–49 to the design of James Gibbs.

Blenheim Palace, close to Woodstock, was built by the great architect John Vanbrugh for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, after he had won the battle of Blenheim. The gardens, which can be visited, were designed by the landscape gardener "Capability" Brown, who planted the trees in the battle formation of the victorious army. In the palace, which can also be visited by the public, Sir Winston Churchill was born in 1874.

Chastleton House, on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire borders, is a great country mansion built on property bought from Robert Catesby, who was one of the men involved in the Gunpowder Plot with Guy Fawkes. Stonor Park, another country mansion, has belonged to the recusant Stonor family for centuries.

Mapledurham House is an Elizabethan stately home in the far south-east of the county, close to Reading.

The Abbey in Sutton Courtenay is a medieval courtyard house. It has been recognised by the Historic Building Council for England (now Historic England) as a building of outstanding historic and architectural interest.[15] It is considered to be a ‘textbook’ example of the English medieval manor house,[16] and is a Grade I-listed building.[17]

Settlements in Oxfordshire

(c) Steve Daniels, CC BY-SA 2.0
Wantage Market Place

Emergency services

Settlements by population

1Oxford150,2002011Oxford non-metropolitan district
2Banbury46,8532011Civil parish
3Abingdon-on-Thames33,1302011Civil parish
4Bicester32,6422011Civil parish
5Witney27,5222011Civil parish
6Didcot25,1402011Civil parish200 dwellings in the south-east of the town lie in neighbouring East Hagbourne parish.
7Carterton15,7692011Civil parish
8Kidlington13,7232011Civil parishDoes not include Gosford.
9Henley-on-Thames11,6192011Civil parish
10Wallingford11,600[18]2011Civil parish
11Thame11,5612011Civil parishIncludes hamlet of Moreton
12Wantage11,3272011Civil parish
13Grove7,1782011Civil parish
14Faringdon7,1212011Great Faringdon civil parish
15Chipping Norton6,3372011Civil parish
16Chinnor5,9242011Civil parish
17Benson4,7542011Civil parish
18Eynsham4,6482011Civil parish
19Wheatley4,0922011Civil parish
20Kennington4,0762011Civil parish
21Woodstock3,1002011Civil parish
22Charlbury2,8302011Civil parish
23Watlington2,7272011Civil parish
24Bampton2,5642011Civil parish
25Deddington2,1462011Civil parish

Places of interest

AP Icon.svgAbbey/Priory/Cathedral
Accessible open spaceAccessible open space
Themepark uk icon.pngAmusement/Theme Park
CL icon.svgCastle
Country ParkCountry Park
EH icon.svgEnglish Heritage
Forestry Commission
Heritage railwayHeritage railway
Historic houseHistoric House
Places of WorshipPlaces of Worship
Museum (free)
Museum (free/not free)
National TrustNational Trust
Zoo icon.jpgZoo

See also

References and notes

  1. ^ "Camelot International, Britain's heritage and history". Camelotintl.com. Archived from the original on 3 May 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  2. ^ "No. 62943". The London Gazette. 13 March 2020. p. 5161.
  3. ^ UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Oxfordshire Local Authority (E10000025)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Homepage". Archived from the original on 23 November 2002. Retrieved 16 November 2002.
  5. ^ Edwardes, Simon (2001). "County and Unitary Authority Tops". The Mountains of England and Wales. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  6. ^ "Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)". Plantlife. Archived from the original on 30 January 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  7. ^ "unknown" (PDF). pp. 240–253. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 July 2011. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  8. ^ Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
  9. ^ includes hunting and forestry
  10. ^ includes energy and construction
  11. ^ includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
  12. ^ "Six of world's top 20 universities are in UK". BBC. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  13. ^ "Four Worlds of Work: Preparing students for the global market". Study International. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  14. ^ "Economic Statistics". Oxford City Council. Archived from the original on 17 December 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  15. ^ The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay archives.
  16. ^ Currie 1992, p. 225.
  17. ^ Historic England. "The Abbey (1052729)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 20 March 2020.
  18. ^ Service, District Data. "District Data Service - South Oxon Census 2011 summary leaflet". www.oxford.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 5 August 2018. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  19. ^ Christopher Gale (7 July 2012). "Abingdon County Hall Museum". Abingdonmuseum.org.uk. Archived from the original on 13 August 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  20. ^ "Home page". Chipping Norton History Society and Museum. Archived from the original on 16 May 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  21. ^ "Home". Combemill.org. Archived from the original on 10 September 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  22. ^ "Oxfordshire". Milton Manor House. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  23. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Sherwood, Jennifer (1974). The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300096392.
  24. ^ Glitz. "Wheatley Windmill Website". Wheatleymill.co.uk. Archived from the original on 24 July 2014. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  1. ^ (abbreviated Oxon, from Oxonium, the Latin name for Oxford)

Further reading

External links

Coordinates:51°45′N 1°17′W / 51.75°N 1.28°W / 51.75; -1.28

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The County Flag of the County of Oxfordshire, as flown at County Hall in Oxford. Own work, based on evidence of its design from the following sources: [1] and [2] and the following to verify that it is indeed the official flag flown alongside the Union Jack at County Hall: [3], [4]
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The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, England
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Location of the ceremonial county of Oxfordshire within England.
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Map of the South East England region showing the administrative districts.

Equirectangular map projection on WGS 84 datum, with N/S stretched 160%

Geographic limits:

  • West: 2.0W
  • East: 1.5E
  • North: 52.25N
  • South: 50.5N